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The Visible Religion

The Russian Orthodox Church and her Relations with State and Society in Post-Soviet Canon Law (1992–2015)


Alexander Ponomariov

«The Visible Religion» is an antithesis to Thomas Luckmann’s concept. The Russian Orthodox Church in post-Soviet canon law suggests a comprehensive cultural program of modernity. Researched through the paradigms of multiple modernities and post-secularity, the ROC appears to be quite modern: she reflects on herself and the secular environment, employs secular language, appeals to public reason, the human rights discourse, and achievements of modern science. The fact that the ROC rejects some liberal Western developments should not be understood in the way that the ROC rejects modernity in general. As a legitimate player in the public sphere, the ROC puts forward her own – Russian Orthodox – model of modernity, which combines transcendence and immanence, theological and social reasoning, an afterlife strategy and cooperation with secular actors, whereby eschatology and the human rights discourse become two sides of the same coin.

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3. External Aspects of the Orthodox Church


3.1. The ROC in the Post-Soviet Era

The notion “church,” “ecclesia,” is derived from the Greek verb ἐκκαλέω/ἐκκαλῶ (“convene,” “call upon”), implying a specific convention of “God’s own people” (1 Peter 2: 9). As such, it parallels the Hebrew הוהי להק (cf. Numbers 16: 3). Therefore, the Church in the very name bears the key aspect of her self-awareness – assembly of all around the Eucharist. Given that members of the Church are too many to fit into one venue, the visible expression of the assembly for practical (and symbolic) reasons is reduced to bishops gathered together at Bishops’ Councils, an example of which is provided below.

Figure 1: Russian Orthodox bishops at the Bishops’ Council of 2013 (Poslanie 2013)

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